Tag Archives: IVP Academic

Review: The Decalogue, Theologygrams

We’ve come along way from the giving of the Ten Commandments (AKA, the Decalogue or the Ten Words).  Do we still need them? Are they still relevant? Who doesn’t know that murder is wrong? If so many don’t believe in God, why have them around anyway? Should we enforce them as laws?

The Decalogue consists of two groups of five commandments concerned with loving God (1-5) and loving one’s neighbor (6-10). In his book, the Decalogue, David Baker believes the Decalogue “expresses the essence of the covenant but is not a treaty document in itself” (12). There are strong parallels between the commandments of the Decalogue and that of other ANE treaties (e.g., not to commit murder, adultery, theft, etc.). However, other ANE texts are not “as comprehensive in scope as the Decalogue” (19). The ethical appeals of the Decalogue are grounding in God’s character and how he says his “holy nation” should live to be holy as he is holy.

The Decalogue was spoken by God to all of Israel, the “whole people of God” (32). Baker believes it is Israel’s constitution. Far from being a burden to slog through life under, it (and the Book of the Covenant in the following chapters of Exodus) is their “charter of freedom to be embraced and celebrated,” as Psalms 19 and 119 point out (35).

After his introduction, Baker gives a chapter to each commandment, setting each of the ten commandments against their surrounding ancient Near Eastern cultures to compare and contrast the uniqueness of God’s instructions to his people. He then reflects on how that commandment was (or wasn’t) lived out through examples in the OT and NT. Baker makes comparisons with the Decalogue that is repeated in Deuteronomy 5, noting any changes and why they might have been made.

In his final section he looks at how we, as Christians, the people of God, should live in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He says that the Decalogue is the basis for Old and New Testament ethics. It reveals the character of God to us, and from there we can explore the rest of the Bible to see what he is like.

Lagniappe

  • Author: David Baker
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (April 3, 2017)
  • Press Kit available here

Buy it from Amazon or IVP Academic

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A picture is worth a thousand words, and often a picture is easier to look at than 1,000 words. Rich Wyld has created a host of diagrams to help distill some of theology’s deeper points into forms that visual people can digest. Until I get permission to share some pictures, I’ll share some links to his blog. Some of these from his blog are found in his book, others are not. Wyld begins with (1) the Old Testament, then moves to (2) the Gospels, (3) the rest of the NT, (4) the life of the church, and he ends on (5) the life of the church.

In section 4, Wyld, an Anglican, uses references mostly from the Anglican church, but tries to be fair when representing other churches too. Some sections found here are:

  • A “breakdown of time spent during a hymn”
  • “Ministry in the church” (those being pastors and teachers, evangelists, prophets, apostles, and people who hoover and make tea).
  • And the very humorous looks at “what’s going on in the mind of the person reading the Gospel in church,” which, if you’ve ever had to read in front of a crowd, you can very well relate.

In section 5, Wyld asks where wisdom can be found, and looks at Proverbs, Jesus, James…and Mr. T.

Some examples which can be found on his blog are:

Bible references are provided for most pictures. The intention isn’t only to be silly, but to provoke thought and have the reader go back to the Bible to read that verse or section again. The intention isn’t to mock or belittle God, his creative works, nor his redeemed people.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Rich Wyld
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (November 14, 2017)
  • Press Kit available here

Buy it from Amazon or IVP Academic

Disclosure: I received these books free from IVP Academic and IVP Books. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: Beauty, Order, and Mystery

In the beginning God made an ordered creation. All things were good, good, and very good. “God created mankind in his own image… male and female he created them.” He created man and placed him in a garden, and then created women for the man. What happens after that gets complicated, convoluted, and disturbing. What do we do with marriage, sex, and sexuality in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the “profound mystery” found in the relationship between husband and wife.

In Beauty, Order, and Mystery, editors Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson—senior associate pastor and senior pastor, respectively, at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL—bring together essays from the 2016 Center for Pastor Theologians 2016 conference on the themes of human sexuality. Not all of the contributors agree on every point, but they all do agree on the “historic Christian consensus on sexuality,” which is centered around the importance of “biological sexuality” (3).

The books has three sections. 

Part one—a theological vision for sexuality

Part two—the beauty and brokenness of sexuality

Part three—biblical and historical reflections on gender and sexuality

To summarize each of the fourteen chapters below would be too much, so I’ll comment on a few that stood out to me.

Summary

Both Beth Jones and Matthew Mason emphasize that the bodies we have now will be the ones that are resurrected. Our bodies touch the core of our existence. This is why Paul says that the “fornicator sins against the body itself” (1 Cor 6.18). “Sex matters because it goes to the very heart of what it means to be human” (29). We can’t simply change our bodies to the way we think they should be. It is becoming increasingly difficult to say that maleness and femaleness are “created goods” (23). But that’s because we have fallen natures, and it is mistaken to think that the consequences of sin in the now created (dis)order are normal and good. As Mason points out, redemption involves both Christians and the whole created order (137). Our genders are shaped by our culture (e.g., different cultures and different eras have different standards on length of hair, style of dress, mannerisms), but “inscribed in our bodies” is our biological sex (139). Looking at 1 Corinthians 25.38, God has given each of us a body as he has chosen, and our resurrection body will correspond with our earthly body. To undergo reassignment surgery is to say humans—or each individual—are autonomous Creators.

In the same vein, Denny Burk’s “The Transgender Test” acknowledges that we should feel compassion for those who feel like they are living in two worlds, but his main point is the authority of Scripture. It is “nothing less than a shorthand for the authority of God” (91). What if someone has a “female” mind but a “male” body? iIs the Bible insufficient to deal with a situation like this? Popular opinion says God’s word is harmful to those dealing with these issues, but if that isn’t how Jesus tells us to love people, then it’s wrong. If we diminish Scripture’s authority, we’re hurting those we minister to.

Marriage is a “unity-in-difference,” says Wesley Hill (41). It represents the “other-oriented love of the Trinity” (208). The “trinitarian God gives himself in love to the other”—that is, the Son (who is not the Father) and the Holy Spirit (who is neither the son nor the Father). Jesus shares the perspective that marriage is between a man and a woman. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the picture of marriage—the Bridegroom with his Bride. The Christian who has homosexual tendencies cannot marry, but he/she can find love in Christ’s body. Similarly, single people can live well without a spouse, just as the married can live poorly with their own spouse. Within the body of Christ, deep, closely-knit friendships need to be encouraged. For that is how we will all survive.

Both my wife and I thought Daniel Brendsel’s chapter was an odd duck. About half of the chapter was spent talking about the selfie and where it came from. The other half talks about what the selfie portrays—I have a body that I can show off but is somehow separate from me, you can know “me” just through a picture and a paragraph, we are performers who can be someone else to different groups of people. We reap what we so, somehow. He says “we should consider what we as churches have been sowing and watering by way of our cultural practices and postures,” but doesn’t really say what church have been doing or what they should change beyond sharing meals with one another and confessing our sins—growing in our relationships with each other in order to know the real “me.” It wasn’t a bad chapter, it merely seemed out of place from all the rest.

Gerald Hiestand’s chapter took a very good look at the power inequality that exists between male and female. He examines third-wave feminist Camille Paglia’s argument on the relationship between biology and tyranny. Following the argument was difficult, and probably would have been better relayed if he had summarized it (though I understand it was part of his lecture). Also, compared to the other essays, Hiestand’s reads as though he is a PhD candidate. That being the case, men have more physical power, but we are to lay our lives down for our wives, the weaker vessel (1 Pet 3.7), as Christ laid his life down for his bride and continues to serve her.

Finally, Joel Willitt’s essay, “Bent Sexuality and the Pastor,” looks at “the pervasiveness of sexual trauma” and “the denial of our [pastors, specifically, but all people generally] own trauma around sexuality” (119). Being sexually bent comes as a result of a traumatic experience, often in the form of sexual abuse as a child. As a result, people try to survive snd work through it in different ways, often incorrectly (e.g., being paranoid, fatalistic, heroic, and optimistic). It often can lead them to have sexual difficulties (e.g., self-abuse, abusing others, porn addiction, not wanting sex, etc.). Willitts emphasized the difficulty that many go through as to how difficult it is to break through the trauma warfare. It “often… comes in fits and starts; it is the result of a long, painful process; and likely, it will not be completed until Christ’s return” (129).

I’m not sure, though, how to take his ending. Wanting to be careful about his essay, but he mentions having a hard time desiring sex with his wife (due to his childhood abuse), mentions having a porn addiction, but then doesn’t talk about how those two things work together. In the end, Willitts isn’t saying not to fight the trauma. Those who have been abused do need to fight through it with the power of the Spirit and know that they will be free in the resurrection, but the rest of us need to be gracious, empathetic, patient, and long-suffering. His essay gave me the most thought.

Recommended?

Yes, get this book. It is a great resource and will help you to think through these issues that are knocking on our doors. The contributors do not always agree (Mouw seems to have some reservations about how to apply the OT law to homosexuality, while Burk is for using the OT law). But Beauty, Order, and Mystery provided my wife and I with some good talking material, and with some excellent advice when we do face people who feel uncomfortable in their own bodies.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Center for Pastor Theologians
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 24, 2017)
  • Press Kit available here

Buy it from Amazon or IVP Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: The Lost World of the Flood

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. (Matthew 4.8)

…And distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house. (2 Sam 6.19)

And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. (Gen 7.19)

Was the Flood a local flood or a global flood? Does the Bible every use hyperbole? If so, can we still consider it inerrant? Does the physical earth show proof of a global flood? If it doesn’t, does the Bible remain trustworthy? Can it be possible that a local flood is hyperbolically represented as covering the whole earth to represent God cleansing the whole earth and starting over? That’s what Tremper Longman and John Walton argue for in The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate.

The authors argue that rather than using Mesopotamian flood sources, the Israelites sat within a “cultural river” of beliefs on the flood. The authors believe a flood really did happen, as can be seen in the writings of many cultures (e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh). However, they don’t believe in a worldwide flood, and we can’t know which flood lays behind the Noah story.

Yet doesn’t Genesis 7–8 state that the whole world was covered by water (7.21; 8.9). Enter part one (method): “perspectives in interpretation.” The Bible is an “ancient document,” which means very old. This is obvious, but it is easy to forget that people thousands of years ago thought differently than us moderns. When it comes to storytelling and history, since nobody wants to hear every detail, certain aspects must be carried along while others are left behind. Genesis uses rhetorical devices to interpret history for us. God shaped and fashioned an ordered creation; man corrupted it and brought disorder.

But the way this is told is put into a story, one that, according to the authors, uses hyperbole. This will be the most contentious part of this section, since the thought of the Bible using exaggeration seems out of the bounds of a literal interpretation. However, Longman and Walton seek to place the Bible in its historical context, and exaggeration was common among other ancient writings (just as it is today: “But, Mom, everyone is going to the concert. I will be the only one stuck at home all night long!”).

Though which details are actually exaggerated will be debated, exaggeration emphasizes the authors point. The teenager above may have different reasons for wanting to go to the concert (fitting in, having something to talk about at school, favorite band, not wanting to be bored at home while playing cards with Aunt Tina), but Mom knows exaggeration is being used. Readers 1,000 years from now might not know this is exaggeration unless they have read other writings from our time. For the authors, the exaggeration lies primarily in the (over)size of the ark and the extent of the (global) flood. 

In part two (background) the authors looks at the flood stories in other ANE texts to understand the similarities and differences between them and the Genesis text. Part three (text) provides five chapters/propositions on what the flood story (Gen 7-9) and the surrounding texts (6; 10-11) tell us about God and man and that no matter how many times man undermines his ordered presence, God will set his ordered presence among his people (cf. Rev 21-22). Examples are seen through the events of the sons of God intermingling with women, the flood, and the tower of Babel.

Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” represents a real starry night, but it would be madness for us to try to figure out which part of the night sky Van Gogh was looking at for inspiration. In part four (world), the authors write that while the flood story is based on a real event, it was local flood that is not supported by the world’s geology (a chapter written by geologist Stephen Moshier). The fact that there are other flood stories does not prove that there was a worldwide flood, but rather that many lived within the cultural river of knowing there was a great flood. (See Michael Heiser’s post on how to argue biblically for a local flood).

What if there really was only a local flood? The authors argue in the final chapter that science can purify religion and religion can purify science. What they mean is that the Bible was not written to teach us about science but about God and how we can come to know him through Jesus Christ. Galileo taught us that the earth revolves around the sun, and science should not conflict with the Bible. As with Galileo, the authors argue we should go back to the Bible to see if we understood it correctly. On the other side, science is not “the sole arbiter of truth” (175). Not all scientists think it is, but both Dawkins and Hawking spoke incorrectly about religion, embarrassingly so.

I appreciated the authors’ short discussion on the clarity of Scripture. The Bible is clear as to the way of salvation, but that does not mean that all Christian can understand all parts of Scripture just by simply reading the Bible. Even our translations disagree on how to translate certain verses of the Bible. This should not put us into a tizzy. We must mine the Scriptures for wisdom and knowledge to know the God who created and saved us.

The Spoiled Milk

In the preface the authors say that they aren’t trying to offer the “single ‘correct’ interpretation” of the flood. There is much more that could be said than what they say in their book. They aim to relay to the reader what the Bible is speaking. Their goal is not to “convert” nor even to “persuade” their readers to their view. Rather, they want to bring this information to the reader to show them another perspective, or perhaps more information about a perspective they already hold.

However, three times in their book the authors are reveal their hands and play the card of condescension. They say that those who try to rationalize the size of the ark make “rather stretched (to be kind) explanations” and “only the most gullible can possibly believe all of the exceptional conditions that are needed to understand the description of the flood story as anything but hyperbolic” (39, emphasis mine). They later argue “that the New Testament authors (and Jesus himself) were sophisticated enough to understand that [the Genesis story refers to a hyperbolically worldwide flood] (even if some modern readers are not)” (99). If the authors are only presenting their side, then why the dig? (See also page 26 where the authors mention intelligent people who believe in the literal seven days even when there were no celestial bodies, but how they may be “too intelligent (or clever)).”

This does only happen a few times, but the authors may “hope that at least [they] have shown how [their] particular interpretation is the result of faithful interpretation,” those small digs will only serve to distance those “readers who cannot accept our [Longman and Walton’s] findings” (viii).

Recommended?

Is this book dangerous or unorthodox? No. The authors make a good attempt to reconcile the Bible with science, but I don’t think they will convince many unless those readers are already heading in that direction. If this is the first book you read in the “Lost World” series, 180 pages won’t be long enough to convince you of the authors’ view of biblical inspiration and authority. One ought to read Walton’s The Lost World of Scripture for a more complete work. If you’re interested to read a book on the local flood by two well informed scholars, or if you’ve been following the “Lost World” series, then you should start here. If you hold to a global flood and aren’t bothered by a few digs, this book is a good discussion tool and will still help you to see the theological point of the flood and of Genesis 1-11.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon or IVP Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: Mark (TNTC)

The first commentary on the Gospel of Mark was written in the sixth century, and between “AD 650 and 1000, thirteen major commentaries were written on Matthew, but only four on Mark” (Strauss, 20). Despite the long neglect, much study has been done over Mark’s short Gospel for more than the last century.

Eckhard Schnabel, Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell and author of Acts (ZECNT), Early Christian Mission (2 volumes), and 40 Questions on the End Times, replaces Alan Cole’s Mark volume in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series with a Christmas meal—441 pages of commentary on the shortest Gospel. While adding to the growing list of commentaries, Schnabel (who is also the TNTC’s series editor) did not write a commentary of commentaries on Mark. Instead, writing for pastors, students, and laypeople, he comments on the meaning of Mark through theological reflection, historical points of reference, the meanings of words, and the literary development of the characters.

Summary

Schnabel gives very little attention to Markan priority (whether Mark’s Gospel was written first), saying that Markan priority “continues to be plausible,” but that “these questions are more significant for commentaries on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke” (4). Thankfully, Schnabel examines the text and not a possible Markan community behind the text, though he does acknowledge future Mark’s clarifications for Gentile readers (14, 162).

He takes Mark to be the actual author (12), probably writing from Rome for various churches (14) anywhere between 50–64 AD. We don’t know what Mark’s sources are, but if Papias is correct, Mark’s “most significant — and perhaps the only — source” was Peter (18). Mark ends his Gospel at 16.8. Abrupt endings are attested in antiquity, and within the Bible Jonah ends abruptly and Acts ends with Paul still alive and his legal case unresolved. To paraphrase Demetrius (whom Schnabel quotes), some points need to be worked out be the hearers themselves (22-23).

Schnabel disregards William Wrede’s hypothesis of Mark’s “Messianic secret.” If there is nothing messianic about Jesus or his ministry, then there is no explanation for his death, nor is there any explanation as to how his disciples transformed their “unmessianic master into the Messiah after Easter” (25).

Mark does not have a “vendetta” against the disciples (29), but merely gives an “unvarnished” (aka, authentic) look at their pre-resurrection responses to Jesus (30). Nobody imagined a Messiah who would die, and though on occasion Jesus does rebuke the disciples, he often explains himself to them.

Schnabel divines Mark into four pairs of three’s:

  1. The Beginning of the Gospel (1.1–13)
    1. Heading (1.1)
    2. Jesus and John the Baptist (1.2–8)
    3. Jesus declared Son of God and conflict with Satan (1.9–13)
  2. Jesus’ Messianic Authority (1.14–8.21)
    1. The kingdom of God and Jesus’ authority (1.14–3.6)
    2. The Twelve and the kingdom of God (3.7–6.6)
    3. The Mission of Jesus Messiah and the Twelve (6.6–8.21)
  3. Jesus’ Messianic Suffering (8.22–15.47)
    1. The revelation of the Messiah’s suffering (8.22–10.52)
    2. The confrontation in Jerusalem (11.1–13.37)
    3. The suffering and death of Jesus Messiah (14.1–15.47)
  4. Jesus’ Resurrection Announced (16.1–8)
    1. The women at Jesus’ tomb (16.1–5)
    2. The announcement of Jesus’ resurrection (16.6–7)
    3. The reaction of the women (16.8)

Interpretations

4:10–12: Jesus tells parables to conceal the kingdom of God from outsiders. They are intentionally veiled. Many cannot see or hear the kingdom of God in Jesus’ miracles, exorcisms, and through his teachings. Judgement will come because they do not want to truly listen to God (13.1–37). Schnabel interprets through the lens of the kingdom of God that has come in Jesus (1.14–15).

6:49–50: Jesus’ “I am” statement (see also 14.62) is not a declaration of divinity.

7:24–30: Having just taught his disciples about what is clean and unclean (vv. 14–23), Jesus enters “unclean” Gentile territory. Jesus doesn’t “change his mind” when the Syro-Phoenician woman gives the right answer; rather, she passes his test. She (a Gentile “dog”) can eat the crumbs under the table simultaneously while the children (Israel) are eating. Though Jews generally saw dogs as unclean, “dog” (kynarion) here is a pet “present at a meal in the house” (173). This Gentile woman has more spiritual discernment than the Jewish leaders.

8:1–10: Mark is not repeating himself here; this is not the same event as in 6.30–44. Jesus is in Gentile territory (Isa 25.6; 49.6; Acts 1.8; 2.39).

13:24–27: Jesus’ second coming is at a separate, indeterminate time from 13.1–23. Jesus no longer focuses on the city of Jerusalem, the local councils, or even the seasons (winter, v. 18), but on “the sun, the moon, the stars, the clouds, the ends of the earth and the ends of heavens” (330).

14:35–36: Jesus “does not have inner doubts about the value of his death. Jesus’ prayer to be spared death conveys the excruciating anguish that senses the terrible reality of suffering the judgment of God, dying as a ransom for the many (10:45), shedding his blood to seal the new covenant (14:24), dying as a sin offering (Rom 8:3), becoming the place of God’s atoning presence (Rom 3:25), becoming a curse for us (Gal 3:13) ” (364).

14:51–52: Whoever this young man is, he shows that all have forsaken Jesus. In terror, the young lad would prefer to be shamefully naked and save his own skin than to be caught being with Jesus.

Schnabel provides much good historical and factual information on various people (Pilate, p. 394-95; the Sanhedrin, p. 373), places (Jerusalem, p. 261), and the timing of the Passover (350-51). Some of these details seem a bit much, such as the possible “House of Peter (1.29–31), heights of various mountains in Israel, and how a clay lamp was made in Galilean workshops (4.21). It can make the text seem too busy, and I personally think some of these details would work better as footnotes. Still, his points on why people go “up” to Jerusalem (247), just how the friends could dig their way through the roof of a house (65), or who Barabbas was (400), help make sense of the text. Schnabel is a careful exegete and historian. 

Unfortunately, there are no indices in this volume (or in any of the Old and New Testament series).

Recommended?

I’ve read (chunks of) quite a few Markan commentaries. Schnabel’s volume isn’t going to break new ground, but he is trustworthy when it comes to biblical exegesis and exposition. He keeps the Gospel’s context in view in his theology sections, making sure that he doesn’t interpret something apart from anything else Mark has said, and points to Christ as our one and true Savior whose death ransomed sinners and inaugurated the new covenant. The pastor, student, Bible college teacher, and layperson would be filled with this huge 441 page meal.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Eckhard J. Schnabel
  • Series: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (June 6, 2017)

But it on Amazon or IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: Paradoxology

 

What if this ancient faith we call Christianity has survived so long not in spite of but precisely because of its apparent contradictions? . . . What if it is in the difficult parts of the Bible that God is most clearly revealed? What if it is in and through our doubts that we learn the meaning of true relationship with the God who created us — of true worship? What if Christianity was never meant to be simple? (5)

In the introduction to his book Paradoxology, Krish Kandiah begins with a personal story etched into his life. Sitting in the hospital with a family whose one-year-old son was suffering after a routine surgery, the elephant in the room is the question: Why does God allow such meaningless suffering? How do we understand an omnipresent God who we can’t see or feel? How can we love a God who needs nothing but asks everything from us? How can he be so inactive while equally actively holding up the world? Who speaks silently? Who “wins as he loses”? Just who is this God whom we serve?

Kandiah doesn’t try to guard anyone from the Bible’s own questions and difficulties. If God needs no sacrifices, why did he ask Abraham to sacrifice his own promised son? Does he determine our free will? Is he really so compassionate when we consider the wars in Joshua? For Kandiah, working through these difficulties instead of shying away grows our faith. It requires us to pay attention to the Bible to see God’s just and righteous character. Kandiah looks at the Bible characters (such as Abraham, Job, Habbakkuk, Esther, and Jesus!) and how they remained obedient and faithful to God even in the midst of despair.

Overview

Kandiah structures each chapter in the same way. First there is a current story or circumstance. Why, after having already lost his wife and baby, did poor Geyoung’s father decide to return to North Korea to preach the gospel, only to be arrested and never heard from again? Second, the story brings up problems. Why does God require so much from us? Was it correct for Geyoung’s father to leave her to preach the gospel in North Korea? Does God want to watch us struggle? If he has everything, is he greedy for wanting more? Third, there is the biblical story. Abraham and Sarah are barren, God promises Abraham many descendants, and they believe him. Sometime after Isaac is born, God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

Looking at the broader story, Kandiah draws out a few points of reference for the reader over how Abraham could have trusted this God. I don’t want to give too much away, but Abraham’s belief in God was not a leap of faith. Abraham had already spent years seeing that God is true, just (“shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Gen 18.25), and worthy to be praised.

God is not an idol who is here to give us the good and prosperous. No relationship should work like that on earth, and neither does our relationship with God work like that. God smashes our idols and wants us to know him. Abraham had already experienced the miraculous life of Isaac coming from the deadness of himself and Sarah (Heb 11.12). Abraham knew that God could bring life out of death (11.19). There was a relationship between Abraham and Yahweh. Abraham had seen that Yahweh was just and righteous time and time again.

Fourth, Kandiah closes with some concluding concluding thoughts, sometimes tying them in with his opening story.

The Chocolate Milk

Every chapter pretty much follows this structure, which means you know what to expect with each chapter. He brings up the challenges that many people think when they read the bible, and shows how God is trustworthy, just, and faithful.

Some paradoxes have to remain as paradoxes and simply be held together. For example, scientists have one theory for how light consists of solid particles that can hit objects, and they have a separate theory on how it is a wave and can be in two separate places at the same time (219). Scientists have to acknowledge that their brains are not wired to put these two theories together, so, rather than emphasizing one theory over the other, they hold them together. Similarly, when it comes to the Trinity, how Jesus is both man and God, and how God’s divine sovereignty and man’s free will correspond to each other, these things must be held together. We work through them, read books about them, and understand and explain their nuances, but we will never completely understand these paradoxes in this life. And that is OK.

If there was one addition I would appreciate seeing, it would be a section on recommended resources either after every chapter or at the end of the book. Some of the chapters here summarized ideas that I’ve read in other books. For instance, because I’ve read quite a few books on God’s sovereignty and man’s free will (chapter 10), there wasn’t much new here for me. It’s a similar case with chapters 3 (the Joshua Paradox) and 4 (the Job Paradox). These chapters weren’t intended to cover every detail, but having a reference tool to point readers to other books would be helpful. And though we have Amazon at our fingertips, recommendations for further reading from an author are always warmly welcomed. 

Recommended?

For the high school or university student, to the layman, Bible teacher, and pastor, this book provides a helping comfort to know that the Bible’s paradoxes aren’t a problem—but a gift to be received, wrestled with, befuddled over, and a cause to rejoice. The God we serve has hidden himself in plain sight, and because we have his Spirit, we can read his word and we can understand him.

Lagniappe

    • Author: Krish Kandiah
    • Paperback: 320 pages
    • Publisher: IVP Books (February 14, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon or from IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.


Table of Contents

The Preface (paradox)
Introduction

1. The Abraham Paradox: The God who needs nothing but asks for everything
2. The Moses Paradox: The God who is far away, so close
3. The Joshua Paradox: The God who is terribly compassionate
4. The Job Paradox: The God who is actively inactive
5. The Hosea Paradox: The God who is faithful to the unfaithful
6. The Habakkuk Paradox: The God who is consistently unpredictable
7. The Jonah Paradox: The God who is indiscriminately selective
8. The Esther Paradox: The God who speaks silently 

Interlude at the Border

9. The Jesus Paradox: The God who is divinely human
10. The Judas Paradox: The God who determines our free will
11. The Cross Paradox: The God who wins as he loses
12. The Roman Paradox: The God who is effectively ineffective
13. The Corinthian Paradox: The God who fails to disappoint

Epilogue: Living with Paradox

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Review: Liturgy of the Ordinary

How is one to be devoted to Christ in a world full of chores, showers, cooking, and cleaning? Doesn’t he know how long it takes us to get up in the morning (or worse, our kids)? How are we to be faithful witnesses of the gospel when so much of our days are taken up by work, menial, constant chores, and another household item breaking (either on its own, or, again, because children)?

Tish Harrison Warren is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and currently serves as Co-Associate Rector at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, PA. She writes regularly for The Well, CT Women, and Christianity Today.

Summary

In her book, Warren takes us from the moment we wake up down to the moment we go to sleep. Everybody starts their day the same way—tired, hair a mess, the look of having just woken up, and the hope that they don’t have to begin the day just yet. Yet for the Christian, “Jesus knows me and declares me his own. On this day he is redeeming the world, advancing his kingdom, calling us to repent and grow, teaching his church to worship, drawing near to us, and making a people all his own” (23).

We make our beds—creating order and beauty out of chaos. We monotonously brush our teeth and take care of our bodies—just as God the Son did in his own physical body (well, I don’t know what he did with his teeth). We are living sacrifices and we act out our worship; it is embodied. We lose out keys and realize we rely too much on small things. How can we say we’ll suffer for the Gospel if we can even keep our cool when we lose our keys? Warren says that we need to “cultivate the practice of meeting Christ in these small moments of grief, frustration, and anger, of encountering Christ’s death and resurrection…in a… Tuesday morning” (56). Why?

She responds,

Otherwise, I’ll spend my life imagining and hoping (and preaching and teaching about how) to share in the sufferings of Christ in persecution, momentous suffering, and death, while I spend my actual days in grumbling, discontentment, and low-grade despair (56).

Even with the flood of food pictures we get on Instagram and Pinterest, all of us eat leftovers. Sometimes that’s great, most times it’s fine, but it’s never remarkable. Eating leftovers for your birthday is convenient, but it’s not special. In fact, most meals we eat are not Pinterest-worthy, nor are they even worthy to tell our neighbors (because who loves hearing “Hey, I made new meat loaf last night”?).

Similarly, Bible reading is not usually a very scintillating experience. But just as our non-enthusiastic leftovers provide nourishment to us, and most of those meals—even the fresh ones—are long forgotten, they all have provided some kind of nourishment to us. We are still alive. So it is with the Bible. We read it. We don’t understand it. But it nourishes us. We continue reading. Day after day. Warren says, “Word and sacrament sustain my life, and yet they often do not seem life changing. Quietly, even forgettably, they feed me” (67).

I’ve only covered the first five chapters. We fight with our spouses (or loved ones), and God calls us to be peacemakers (Matt 5.9; cf. Rom 5.1). We check a flood of email and daily work at our jobs (some we like, others we loathe), and we worship God with our efforts. We sit in traffic, and we hate it because it reminds us that we are not masters of our time. As much as we despise it, waiting is a gift and patience a virtue. We call trusted friends, and lay ourselves bare to them. We drink tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate, and rest and savor the world God has created and the creations his creations have created as well.

Warren ends the book with sleeping. Rest is necessary. In fact, it is one of the most spiritual things we can do, for not sleeping will kill us (and our relationships with others). It is a taste of future death, but in it we lay aside our worries and trust that God is at work. He doesn’t need us, but he loves to have us partner with him. He holds us fast, and “gives his beloved sleep” (153; cf. Ps 127.2).

Other Matters

If you can’t tell from the title and the fact that Warren is an Anglican, there is a lot of talk about liturgy in this book. And reading this book through a Baptist lens, that has both it’s pro’s and con’s. Before coming to Norway I had never been in a church that had an ordered liturgy, so there were some aspects of what Warren said that I couldn’t relate to (such as her never really having a “sense” of time until she discovered the liturgical calendar). For myself, I never gave much thought at all about advent until I came to Norway (a prominently Lutheran country). This isn’t a criticism against Warren, but only a note for other readers (i.e., Baptists). Keep reading. For myself, reading through Warren’s book provided me a bit of insight into seeing how other Christian live out their ecclesiology, even if I found some parts odd (and interesting).

I would like to have seen more written about these heady concepts, specifically justification, pneumatology, Christology, and eschatology, topics Warren “can get drunk on” (23). Why does one’s eschatology matter? Pre-, post-, a-, panmillennial—do they make a difference, or are they mere fodder for pointless arguments? How should our view of the Spirit, who he is, and his work in our lives shape our outlook on today? More of this would have been appreciated, but I am happy with what I was given.

Recommended?

Books that bring the heady concepts of the Bible into the warp and woof of our daily lives ought to be read. More often than we’d like to admit, too many of us probably walk around having the biblical concepts in our heads, but when it comes to living out our days, we think we simply need to live as good people. Warren guides her readers through one day—one day out of so many—and shows them a way to think about their day under God’s purposes and loving designs. Whether you are a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, a Methodist, a Pentecostal, or, dare I say it, a Baptist, there is much here that is beneficial.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Tish H. Warren
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (November 1, 2016)
  • Blogs: Her.meneutics, The Well

Buy from Amazon or InterVarsity Press!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: Jeremiah (BST)

The Bible Speaks Today (BST) series has a threefold ideal:

  • to expound the biblical text with accuracy
  • to relate it to contemporary life, and
  • to be readable.

While it is not exactly a “commentary,” this is not a sermon series either (a la Preaching the Word). In his volume, Wright writes specifically to pastors and preachers, those called to fill God’s people with his word and a solid, biblical knowledge of him. Wright is an ideal person to write on Jeremiah. He is an OT theologian who has been writing on the OT, OT ethics, and OT commentaries for years (e.g., Deuteronomy, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel). Having written so much about the OT, Wright is able to keeps the entire story and canon of the Bible in mind as he fills in the details about the suffering prophet.

The weeping prophet, who weeps God’s tears for his people and relays God’s anger against his people. Jeremiah images God’s relationship with Israel in two primary ways: one of a husband and his bride, the other of a father and his son. God is a “betrayed husband” and a “rejected father” (29). Thus, “God and his prophet suffer together in the anticipation and the actuality of the disaster” (30).

Structure and Content

Unfortunately, Wright doesn’t provide an outline. Instead his volume is made up of 34 chapters, with Jeremiah 25 as the “hinge” chapter. He says, “Chapter 25 is clearly a ‘hinge’ chapter that first looks back to all that has gone before in chapters 1–24 (25:1–7). Then it effectively ‘programmes’ the rest of the book by looking forward to the inevitable judgment on Judah that God will bring through the agency of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (25:8–11), followed by God’s promised judgment on Babylon itself and indeed on all the earth (25:12–38)” (27).

Chapters end with a section on “theological and expository reflections” which present short thoughts for the reader (paster/congregation) to consider. For example, Wright says, “Jeremiah highlights biblical standards for human governments,” and then asks why Christians are more vocal over the new sexual agenda than they are about government policies which keep the poor and the vulnerable confined in their present state (246). To know God is “to practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness” in this life now (Jer 9.23–24).

Wright sees wordplays, alliteration, OT allusions, the repetition of words and themes all throughout Jeremiah. He draws together Jeremiah’s messages throughout the book and shows his unified message. In commenting on the abrupt, jarring verses of 30:23–24, Wright says, “Why is that past oracle of doom repeated here? For the purpose of wrapping it in the smothering embrace of the core covenant promise that Israel had known from their origins” (311).

Wright has rhetoric and uses imagery well, saying that Jeremiah and his message “stick out like a funeral director at a wedding,” which is very true (51). Considering all the false prophets who cried, “Peace, peace,” Jeremiah wept that Jerusalem would be overtaken by Babylon. The false prophets preached a wedding; Jeremiah preached a funeral.

Wright is not only sensitive to OT themes, but to NT themes and references as well. God’s promise in Jeremiah 30–33 and 35–37 that nothing could separate him from his people is echoed in Romans 8.38–39.

The Spoiled Milks

My two disappointments with this volume concern the lack of an outline and a lack of indexes, specifically a Scripture index (my same complaint with Lalleman’s and Kidner’s volumes). With so many NT Scriptures referenced, this volume would have been even more resourceful if one could easily see all of the Bible verses used.

Recommended?

Wright is a highly trusted exegete who has written numerous books and commentaries. Get this one, and don’t stop there. Wright, like Lalleman, is good to have for all Bible teaching settings. His chapters are longer than Lalleman’s (only Mackay’s are longer), but are packed with exegetical and expositional insights. I would use his volume if I taught a Bible study, a Bible college class, or preparation for a sermon. Good to be paired with Lalleman’s volume.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Christopher J. H. Wright
  • Series: Bible Speaks Today
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; 1st edition (March 10, 2014)

Buy this from IVP Academic or Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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